During the autumn term, I had the joy of taking part in the mentoring scheme with Bela at Forget Me Not, a dementia assessment unit, running community music workshops. This was an incredibly insightful experience for me. Working alongside Bela taught me so much about how to be a good community musician and the skills needed. Throughout the weeks, I felt more comfortable letting myself out of my own musical bubble to open myself to what was going on in the room. This experience also helped me to read the room and adapt to the energy and mood of the participants, but also making sure that everyone was as included as possible. There were a couple of instances when someone in the room had very high energy and was enjoying the free drumming whilst others wanted more repertoire-based music. Being able to discuss these decisions along with Bela and the OT’s after the sessions was very valuable to reflect on. 

It was very interesting to notice the changes over the weeks in their engagement. Sometimes it was slight and sometimes we saw participants who had never actively engaged, sing entire songs to us and the group. One participant who was usually asleep during the sessions in her movable chair/bed sang the hokey cokey from her bed after which the whole group joined and tried doing as many of the movements. I experienced so many beautiful moments during my apprenticeship there, and the feedback from the participants during the sessions reinforced that feeling of joy:

One participant who had been retreating to his room since his arrival told us after his first music session during which he very actively engaged with the drums “You are all my brothers and sisters. When I am with my brothers and sisters, I can do anything”. The same participant told us after his second music session. “I feel happy. Before, I felt sad”. Another participant in the female ward said to us after her first session “I’ve never experienced anything like it. We just all improvised. We didn’t know each other and it all came together beautifully. It’s the power of music and the power of people”.